Government announces almost £5 billion in help for retail, hospitality and leisure firms, after new national lockdown came into effect at midnight.

A view of a deserted road opposite the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in London, England, on December 19, 2020.
Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
The British government on Tuesday announced a new financial aid package worth almost £5 billion for businesses most affected by the most recent lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of an aggressive new variant of the COVID-19 virus.
The UK has entered another national lockdown, including school closures, in light of the emergence of a new strain of COVID-19 that has prompted record rates of infection and a spike in fatalities that Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday night risked overwhelming the health service.
The Treasury said it would pay one-off grants worth £4.6 billion ($6.2 billion) to businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors to support them through the coming weeks of full lockdown. 
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the aim was to help sustain jobs to ensure workers could be ready to return when the economy reopened.
“The new strain of the virus presents us all with a huge challenge – and whilst the vaccine is being rolled out, we have needed to tighten restrictions further,” Sunak in a statement.
“Throughout the pandemic we’ve taken swift action to protect lives and livelihoods and today we’re announcing a further cash injection to support businesses and jobs until the spring,” he said.
Britain has the worst COVID-19 death rate in Europe, with around 75,000 fatalities. 
The Treasury said the grants would be worth up to £9,000 ($12,200) per property in the sector, with a £594 million ($806 million )discretionary fund also made available to support other impacted businesses. 
The government late last year extended its existing furlough scheme until the spring.
The pound ticked higher against the dollar after the announcement, to trade 0.1% higher on the day around $1.3582.